Monday, December 31, 2007

New Years Resolutions 2008

  • Less is more
  • Trust no one
  • Don't take advice from friends or relatives
  • Have Faith in yourself
  • Follow your instincts
  • Focus on one thing
  • Don't have a backup
  • Go with the flow
  • Understand karma
  • Meditate
  • Visuslaize
  • Believe in yourself
  • Just do it
  • Don't wait
  • Be courageous
  • Any decision you make will be the right decision
  • Make a decision and follow through to completion
Happy New Year in 2008 and bless you all.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Letter from Ann

My only first cousin Ann Garland and I have been in touch with each other for years and both our families have recently asked to find out a little more about our family history. So I set up a personal blog where I insert family information on an intermittent basis in-between my daily mundane journal entries.

Recently I asked Cousin Annie for information on how we were able to emigrate to the US. After the war. Annie said it was too long a story to share on the phone so she wrote me a letter which I will do my best to copy verbatim as follows:

“Dear Abe, these are the events you asked for to the best of my recollection. H.A.I.S. Stands for Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. During and immediately after the war (WWII) this private agency tried to locate and identify holocaust survivors. They published their findings each day in the local Yiddish newspapers in New York. My dad [Morris] read the Yiddish daily called “The Day” (I don’t know the Yiddish spelling) [Forward]. Each day dad carefully scanned through the names of the survivors H.I.A.S. Located. Then one day he became very excited when he found the name Nathan Stark living in an American displaced persons camp in Frankfort or Main (?)

He immediately called H.I.A.S. and asked for the procedure for contact and eventual transfer to the United States. Soon letters were exchanged between Nathan and my dad all in the Yiddish language.

Thereafter I remember packing food packages to be sent to Nathan and his family. I vividly recall packing 5lb. bags of Domino sugar, cans of Bumble Bee tuna and other non perishable foods. I believe Nathan trading some things for fresh foods for the family.

At that time the a person had to have a sponsor before the U.S. allowed immigration into the states. Mom and dad asked a friend of theirs Mr. Jake Peterman who owned a hotel in the Catskills to sponsor Nathan and his family; so as to assure they wouldn’t become a burden on America. I don’t remember how long the process took from first contact to the landing of the Stark family in Boston harbor, but I do remember making out endless documents for my dad to start the immigration process.

Mom and dad found an apartment and job for Nathan and your dad can take it from there.


Mom and Dad's Short War Story

Mom and Dad’s short war story:

Mom and dad were born and lived in Poland until Germany and Russia invaded their homeland in 1939. Mom and her family were immediately captured by the Russians and deported to Siberia. They were kept alive because my grandfather was a country doctor which the Russians needed and valued in the desolate frozen territory.

Dad was separated from his family who he believes were all killed by the Nazis or immediately sent to concentration camps. They were his mom Rivkah, dad Jacob and sister Sarah. His brother Isaac was conscripted into the Polish army and was sent to the “front” and never heard of again. Dad’s other brother Morris emigrated to the US years earlier. We’ll get to that in a moment. Dad was alone when captured by the Russians and placed on a freight train to the Siberia. The cold and congested ride took weeks with the only view of white snow as far as the eye could see.

Each freight car was given a bucket to be used as a toilet and another for water. One loaf of stale bread passed among them once a day. Many became ill and died along the way and were summarily dismissed from the train without ceremony. After a few weeks the train stopped in the white snow bound wilderness and all exited. They dispersed into different groups. Dad, being young and strong, was part of the forced hard labor group and had to construct shelter from the wilderness frozen trees using just a handful of crude and decaying wood working tools.

The next years were barely survivable. Many died of exposure to the cold, while others would die after catching a common cold. Malnutrition was another story altogether. They ate stale bread and potato peel soup with bones as a rare treat which they cooked on a small wood fired stove. About half of the prisoners perished from cold, starvation, malnutrition and disease.

Between the cold, snow, rain, mud and wind, it was not surprising that less than half the prisoners survived each unforgiving winter. They slept on the hard rock earth soil with a thin blanket between they and the earth.

A couple of years before the war ended the Russians were betrayed by the Germans and released the prisoners in the hard labor camps. However, organization wasn’t in the Russian vocabulary at that time so millions of displaced persons were dispersed all over Russia.  Most headed south where it was warmer and eastern Europe. After hitching rides on Russian freight trains Dad wound up with many other Jews in Uzbekistan which at the time was part of Russia. They lived on the streets, ate what little scraps they could find from trash and built a temporary hut made of earth and straw in which he and his friend would sleep. Dad, Nathan met mom, Genia and her family on the train to Uzbekistan. They stayed together in Uzbekistan where they got married.

Living in Uzbekistan was no paradise. It was a hard life for all. The only consolation was the weather. The spring and summers months were warm enough that sleeping in an earth hut on the ground or out in the street was bearable. But lack of decent food, living conditions and shelter was despicable. So after a few years in Uzbekistan many like my folks ventured back to their homeland of Poland where they were met with vicious anti-semitism from the Poles who brutally attacked them, stole their possessions, took over their shops and businesses. It was apparent they were unsafe in Poland so they traveled on to Germany where they heard the US Army were setting up refugee camps as shelters for the displaced persons.

First they traveled to Berlin but there were no camps to accept them. Then they moved on to Munich where they stayed in make shift Army tents temporarily; and where my sister Rivkah was born. We finally settled in Bad Reichenhall a major and influential DP camp where I was born.

The US Army and the German people helped us get settled with nutritious food, clothing and shelter. We slept on Army cots in sparse rooms at a tent barrack structure. They were clean, organized and offered a small wooden fuel stove in each small room with shared bathrooms down the hall. Not surprising, there was a lot of black market trade going on between immigrants receiving red cross packages in exchange of other more badly needed goods from the Army supply store. Evidently fresh fruits and home made cakes went a long way in those day. But my folks never saw or ate any of it. Basic staple food was served daily at he Army commissary. Finally a little stability.

All this time dad was sending letters to his brother Morris in the US but evidently was never received. In the interim there was a Jewish organization called the HIAS: Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society where their representatives visited DP and concentration camps around Europe but mostly Germany, Poland, Hungry, Russia, Romania and France. The HIAS would take down names of the immigrants and make sure the information was published in Hebrew and Yiddish language newspapers around the world. One day my uncle Morris saw dad’s name in the newspaper and the rest is history.

Cousin Ann who was English literate began the long process of making the necessary document arrangements to enable the Stark family to emigrate to the US. Cousin Ann recently sent me a letter which I’ll share another time where she tells this part of the story from a different point of view and in more heartwarming and elaborate details.

Once the years of red tape and documentation were completed the final arrangements were made to allow us to travel to Bremen where we boarded a US ship named the General Moore brimming with immigrants bound for Boston where mom was sea sick for the for entire ten day journey. Until the day she died she refused to set foot on board any size sea going vessel.

We landed in Boston and Cousin Ann recognized Dad as he looked just like his brother Morris, her father, and we all hugged and cried. We stayed in a one room apartment with or near Morris, Ann and her mother Rose for a short time before we moved to Webster Avenue. Our first real apartment in the heart of the Jewish ghetto of the south Bronx. be continued...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Day after Christmas

It was real cool early this morning when I got up  to get to UCLA for an odd medical test. That was fun. Ha..  Headed over to Brentwood for a for coffee and a bagel at Coffee Bean since I haven't been there in a long time. The place was so quite I sat down to read the paper while sipping my java and savored my toasted everything bagel. Stayed there for a while longer than usual until a seemingly homeless man sat next to me as we shared a table. He was wearing jogging slacks and an oxford style blue shirt. He tried to chat me up but I wasn't up to chatting and wasn't sure of him.
My instincts were right . He started talking to himself and then took too quick a hot sip of his coffee he had to spit back into his cup, the table, my paper and his shirt. Disgusting. To make  a long story short he kept changing tables talking to strangers an himself, and when he was well marinated in Madagascar dark roast he took off and was nearly nicked by a passing SUV. So that was my exciting morning.

Coffee bean was beginning to get crowded so I headed to the library down the block which was quiet as well and sent out a bunch of e-mails. I was distracted by surfing the web instead of accomplishing  a few tasks I needed to complete Picked up some hummus and cheese across the street at Whole Foods and bundled up on my way back as the cool wind stirred up a bit.

Got on the net and brushed up on some grammar lessons and read a few blog entries. Nothing of any substance. Maybe I was little blue because another day passed without a call. Am reaching the bottom but have an idea up my sleeve I didn't think of until last week, Its a surprise so I won't reveal it until I have all my ducks in  a row.

Right now its the dreaded boob tube that's keeping me company. Jeez.

Better say ciao for now. Tomorrow should be an interesting day

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day with the old guy

Early Christmas morning was cool, sunny and absolutely gorgeous as the lonely old guy went to one of the few open coffee shops: Coffee Bean and tea leaf. Oddest crowd I've seen in a long time. Mostly single old guys like myself, a few single old women and several yuppie young girls with their grandpas or sugar daddies. I think the former is more likely. The staying old guys and gals had coffee and a bagel or pastry. The going young girls were trekking off with containers of coffee, trays full of lattes and cakes. Cool.
The streets at 8:00 AM were as empty in Brentwood as a ghost town in Barstow. The weather was spectacular. Cool in the morning, sunny during the day and cool again in the evening. Hardly any traffic all day. Nice and quiet. Too quiet? I don't think so.
Something unusual. Not one phone call today. Everybody was busy doing stuff while I was looking to try to find stuff to do. Life is funny. That'll be my new tag line.
Anyone who wants to get together for a coffee meet please send me a comment and we'll work something out. Maybe we can form a true coffee clutch.
Had risotto for dinner with a cheap Syrah wine followed by Port. Both were good. OK this blog entry is going down hill fast so I'll end it. But my next one will be heavy duty so keep an eye out.

Monday, December 24, 2007


Some people think talking about the weather is boring subject, but not to me. I find weather chatting fun, easy and interesting. Even if you're shy at a party asking, "isn't it quite warm for the winter" is a safe remark that might spark an unintentional conversation connection.

Maybe its global warming, normal weather patterns for southern California or just my hormones acting up, but the warm winter weather these last few years have been unusually unnerving to me. I like or want winter to at least be cool. Otherwise why call it winter. Maybe we can coin a new term and and call it Sumter.

Got up early so I turned on my ipod, plugged one end of the white cord into the receptacle and the other two in my ears and listened to a series of previously recorded podcasts on the topic of "Faith". It was fairly interesting but not as enlightening or inspiring as I hoped it would be. Expectations. But I was listening to the interviews in a semi dream-like state and for the most part enjoyed the "Faith".

Got up quickly as my apartment was turning into a sauna as the sun beat down directly on me. Headed to NY Bagel and Peets where they were serving coffee gratis and asked for donations to a good cause. Boy they're cool. Enjoyed both the bagel and coffee while reading the paper. Although its seemed a bit quieter than usual being Christmas Eve, there were still a gaggle of people around. And more dogs. Where did they come from?

Since the library s only a stone's throw away I headed there which is where I am right now. Small quiet calm crowd. Actually quite a beautiful and peaceful place to be this morning. I just read that they're closing mid day so I'll be here for another 45 minutes. However, the down part is that I don't have anywhere else to go afterwards.

This is a common issue single people have especially during the holidays when restaurants, museums and shops are closed for families to get together to partake in the family spirit. My intention is not to get you down by seeking sympathy but just to reveal a glimpse of the life of a person suddenly alone.

As I reread this it does sound like a downer. Well, it is what it is. And, later I'll take a walk in old town Santa Monica and Venice which I much enjoy. But during the holidays there are few tourists roaming around but lots of homeless souls who are more aggressive than usual asking for handouts as they pull at the heartstrings of the well to doers shopping in the quaint and expensive boutiques along Main Street.

Enough dour. Ready to enjoy the de jour. I know. I'll head down to Rick's this afternoon. Haven't been there in a while and they have a nice friendly crowd of loners with nothing else to do but tell tall tales, not listen to anything anyone around them is saying and drink their hearts away to drown out their loneliness. Yes, that's the perfect place for me this afternoon.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Hats, Peanuts & Persimmons

A sunset view from my window showing off spectacular colors on the melting clouds

Its a good feeling to walk around a cool, neat and hip high energy outdoor farmers market just a few blocks from the beach. Its full of yuppies, breeders, artists and hippies. I see smiling faces among the crowds who actually know my name and face. I've lived in the area for years and never connected with anyone until recently. Hmm.
Today, I bumped into people who know me well enough to say hi. Especially the tall young innocent and naively looking kid who's been selling me fresh peanuts, apples, trail mix, almonds, persimmons and other exotic goodies for years. I ask for a pound of peanuts and he usually measures out a little more as he says with glee how its over a pound. He's very generous to me and others in many ways. What a nice kid.

I love fresh peanuts and persimmons. Peanuts are perennial but persimmons are only available during a short window. I like that you really have to find the right moment to eat persimmons. They ripen during a very very short period. If you eat them too early they're a bit firm and tart. If they're too ripe they're mushy and blackened. Just like the story of the three bears the persimmons, like porridge, must be just right. I like that I need to keep on an eye on them to monitor whether the time is right.

Friday, December 21, 2007


I used to dream so much I was sometimes unable to separate the dream from reality. But who really knows. There's a native American tribe that believes we all live in a dream world and there is no reality. Lately I've had trouble sleeping and haven't been dreaming that much. One night I woke up in a cold sweat thinking why I had moved all my things around. I jumped up from bed turned on the lights and realized I was nuts. I went back to sleep feeling both relieved and frustrated.

My favorite recurring dream began during my marriage years when I had a wife, kids, career, travel and and a house. There was so much going on in my life i just wanted to run away and start a new anonymous life like those in the witness protection program. While I was dabbling in screen writing at the time I wrote a screenplay about how and what the experiene would be like but with a little added drama to the plot. I like what I wrote but can't find it as its buried in in my storeage facility which will probably be opened after I'm gone. I'm sure my son David would take one look at it and send it the the Salvation Army.

My longest running dream was actually fulfilled. After living in Gotham cities all my life it was time to live in the wild, like the the story "into the wild". I dreamt about living in a cabin in the woods by myself for a year or two. Well, I would up in a guest house in the hills of Bel Air for a decade. There were more wildlife around me daily than I've ever encountered before: coyotes, deer, raccoons, hawks, owls, snakes, lizards, etc...

I loved that place. I'll tell you another time why I foolishly left it. Another regret.

Bye for now.

Less is More

Less is more has been an important theme for me for many years as I try to follow its concept and philosophy but am amazed at how easily it is to get off track.

Less is more appears in all aspects of life but here is one example of how it has affected me recently and on a daily basis. A few months back I was interviewing for an entry level position at a good well established company on the east coast as a way of down sizing my life style and attempting to move closer to my family. But just like Jimmy Stewart in "Its a Wonderful Life" which will be airing in great repetition these next couple of weeks I've been unable to get out of town. I'm just plain stuck. Just like Jimmy.

I thought the job was in the bag as I've had a few conference call interviews with HR, managers and directors of the company. So in between interviews I performed a heraldic job of packing, discarding junk and cleaning up. It was quite a good feeling being cathartic about life spiritually while physically getting rid of "baggage." I couldn't believe how much stuff I've accumulated over the years.

But I kept out a handful of kitchen, clothes, bathroom and bedding essentials until I pulled the plug and moved my packed stuff. Well, as life would have it I received a call from the hiring manager of the company who informed me I was a good interviewee but the group felt I was overqualified for the position and would have to deny me the available position that I felt was a great choice for both the company and myself. But what do my feelings matter to those who already made up their minds? It was disheartening. No, it was shocking.

Yes I was quite taken aback by the decision as I foolishly thought the job was a shoe in. Assumptions and expectations always get us in trouble. Still well shaken like a martini I went on searching for work but was in denial that my last job was most likely my last job. What to do? What I always felt I had a strong desire but was a major risk: to aspire to the life of the short story writer I always wanted to become. That's the long and the short of it.

How does this relate to less is more? Well, for the last few months I've been living what might be considered a minimal existence on few goods, having packed and stored the majority of my hoarding. I thought I'd be without the necessities I needed. But to my surprise the few utensils, shirts, slacks, hats, bedding and other miscellaneous necessities which were not packed were more than I need.

I'm ashamed to say I like most Americans have more than I need. We're a race of pack rats hoarding and accumulating stuff as signs of status, wealth and position. But what do we really need to live a daily existence? Very little I suspect. my estimate is that I'm now using about 10% of the stuff I own and am want for nothing else. How embarrassing.

Less is more is more or less. It goes far beyond comfort creatures. It applies to long and boring cell phone conversations, unnecessary e-mails, wasteful gossipy chats, excess in food consumption and expensive toys for the well to do. Oh there's more but these are merely the highlights.

Someone might ask if blogs are in excess. I think so. I read many blogs daily and find it hard to believe the unnecessary rhetoric on the majority of blogs I read.

Maybe this is one. You can decide.

Bye for now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Questions I ask myself on a rainy day

Rainy days are good days for laundry, housework, writing and reflections on life. I think about today, yesterday and the early years and ask myself these questions:

What have I accomplished in my life?
Who are those most dear to me?
Where are my friends?
Does my work define me?
Does my non work accuse me?
Why did my hermit nature change to a social nature?
What offers me joy?
What are my regrets?
Where will my new and last home be located?
When will I pull the plug and move on?
Why do some friends return my calls and e-mails in minutes and others in days?
What is the purpose of life?
What have I contributed to my family, friends and society?
Is it too late for an old geezer to start a new life?
How do I begin?

The rain was mild but steady for the last two days. We need the rain. I like the rain. It cools, cleans and cleanses the streets, buildings and souls.

As its Christmas week many have left the city with the lightest traffic I remember in a long time. Traffic, congestion and street noise have been the biggest scourge on the neighborhood slowly increasing to finally reaching an ominous crescendo depicting a futuristic time and place.

Visited Fatboy in the valley yesterday to help install a door, gossip and share a brewsky at the local British Pub down the street. We live in interesting times and tried to solve the problems of the world while sipping Guinness.

Since I’m planning to move I’m seeking the ideal spot. Who isn’t? Many think I’m a city boy having lived in New York and Los Angeles most of my life. But I have a hankering to move to a more rural rustic and scenic place where I can smell the flowers, see the seasons change and take long walks without the zig zag pedestrian clogged streets. Is it a dream or is it doable. Anything is doable but what holds me and most of us back is fear. Fear of change. Fear of risk, Fear of new and different.

Like many of us I have dreams, fears, regrets that are probably more common than I’d like to admit since we would all like to believe we’re unique. For the most part we’re not. We’re mostly living our lives with secret aspirations and goals we’ll never fulfill. Not morbid but rather realistic. That’s why we continue on that endless treadmill of life while living along the way.

However, we’re surprised by life from time to time when events occur beyond our control that sets us in a new and different direction than we ever expected or anticipated. So, we pull ourselves up by our boot straps and trudge through the mud to overcome the despair to look for and find that gorgeous rainbow.

Maybe the rain is making me feel mellow, philosophical and reflective. That’s OK. That’s how I feel right now. Think I’ll just head over to Peets for some coffee and do some free hand writing. It couldn’t be a better day for my hand to pen my thoughts.

Monday, December 17, 2007

From the Past

Today I met an old friend from the past, Glenn. We used to work together many moons ago and bumped into each other from time to time over the years. But in an unknown effort to get back in touch with those from my past I looked up Glenn on the Internet and sent him an e-mail.

As is one of his many efficient personality traits, he responded straight away and we set up a luncheon for today. I met him at his beautiful offices facing the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica and we chatted about family, being grand parents, old friends and associates; and the new face of the unpredictable and ever changing housing business. The industry where we both began over 35 years ago. We both agreed that there are no experts today just speculation as to where the industry and the economy will be heading. No one knows not even the psychic hot line.

It was so good and spiritually uplifting talking about stories and people from the past. I began to feel substantial that my life had a history and I did know wonderful people from the past. I remember when he and his wife first met and how they began their storybook romance.

So we walked to the bowling alley nearby where they serve up a mean lunch in their hometown looking diner restaurant and chatted up a storm in between mouthfuls of tuna melts and chicken wraps.

Glenn always had and still does have a positive outlook on life and shared some of his life plans which made good sense as they usually do.

We talked some more about the future which offered me a more realistic view of where I'm headed as well as he and she. Lynn.

Couldn't have asked for a better couple of hours on a sunny but cool day in Santa Monica. I trust we'll get together again next year for another chat.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bad Reichenhall

Bad Reichenhall was my place of birth located near the German Austrian Border . It looked like this. The American soldiers and Germany people were good to us at this famous displaced persons camp. After we dispersed keeping in touch was trying. I thought this would be a good contrast for the last two day of neat experience with cool people of all walks of life.

Friday I met with my M-Tribe as well as Saturday. Saw some new and old friendly faces, listened to their tall tales, imbibed while listening to the tired old ego driven stories. Yet they were all cool. We all had fun. I most definitely look forward to these events. They keep me inspirited and level my center with a plumb.

Robin and Dan's home is always a pleasure to visit. Typically beautiful Spanish architecture in the midst of a culturally changing neighborhood. It was the best gathering I attended in long while and I hope I get invited back. I'll bring better wine next time. Let's see actors, artists, teachers, shrinks writers and social reformers abound. Plus food delicacies, authentic tea for the foreigners and sweet fruity wine that would  you wince.

Michael wanted to leave a bit earlier since I drove him. So we did. Nice end to an unexpectedly cool cocktail dessert party. Thanks

Ciao for now.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Essay On the Mortgage Debacle

The forgotten victims of the mortgage debacle

The credit crunch and SubPrime debacle left many borrowers, lenders, brokers, bankers and investors scrambling for reconciliation, reform and redemption.

One invisible group of forgotten victims whose fate has been downtrodden and rarely mentioned in media are those who lost there jobs because of the mortgage industry meltdown.

They were not the reckless mortgage industry decision makers who offered exotic products to the unsuspecting public. They were the worker bees who followed orders and performed their jobs according to company policy and procedures which they did not create, develop or dictate.

Those risk makers but not risk takers in their lofty white tower made many hard decisions to eliminate jobs based on lower revenue. From a business model this is a logical and practical decision. But there is always a need to find scapegoats to lay the blame. What would life be without someone else to blame.

Today, there are tens of thousands of unemployed mortgage industry workers. These once scarce and revered jobs are now a dime a dozen. Those without other industry skills are in for a big surprise in seeking new employment. Plus the trickle down effect to family, friends, local, state and national businesses and government is overwhelming. Yes a perfect storm formula to feed those forecasting a foreboding recession.

The mortgage debacle has been a top story for many months and continues to dominate the news almost every day. This egregious topic has even caught the eye of government by passing new related legislation.

Living in Southern California where many of the leading housing related companies are headquartered will affect the economic environment in 2008. Industries like construction, lending, broker, title, escrow, home improvement, furniture, home accessories to name a small group are only the beginning.

This is not the voice of doom and gloom but rather taking advantage of knowledge or facts to help plan the future with a bit of advance notice. How? There are a plethora of articles on the Internet to help families move on with their careers, begin new careers, reduce unnecessary expenses, review financial options, consolidate road trips and much much more.

Take advantage of the myriad of Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, excite, Lycos, etc for gathering and researching information to help make your future well planned, thought out, practical and logical.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Today I spoke with my childhood friend who grew up with me in the Bronx. Jerry was my best and only friend. We tooled around the neighborhood, sung songs on the stoops and ran from bad guys through the streets like lightning.
Many thought he looked exactly like Paul McCartney. I thought so too.
We haven't spoken to each other in years so chatting tonight was a special treat. It were as if we just spoke with each other yesterday. 
He's lived in Virginia for many years and I wonder if he'll be retiring soon.  I wanted to chat with someone who truly understood the Bronx growing up years tonight rather than just hearing about it and wondering if those events really happened.
Anyway, it was a good chat. Thanks Jerry.

Bronx Food Story - Personal, Intimate and Revealing

I remember food. It was the most important aspect of my life while growing up in the Bronx. But not to me. Mom and dad were obsessed with anything kosher and edible. Ethnic food was always around us. We bought the basic ingredients at local Jewish merchant stores, talked about it, moulded it, cut it, cooked it and ate it. With one caveat, there were never any leftovers. Whatever was served was devoured to the last sucking of the marrow on the bones.

Sometimes food was thought of so reverently that it overshadowed other aspects of our life. Especially when the cupboard was bare for a day or two before payday.

When one grows up in such an egregious environment where food is held in such high regard it’s thought of as normal. But as the years progressed the talk of food at our our home and during events at other homes became to be a subject ad nauseam. After a wedding, bar mitzvah or funeral the talk of the food served was spoken more often and with greater passion than about the event or people we visited.

Even in my adulthood when living far away from my family and during occasional visits to see them food was the first order of business. However it quickly became a subject of contention if it were not accepted with fervor and devoured in massive quantities. No subject was more important, more heated or caused more consternation.

Yet there was an ironic twist to this history of pushing food down one’s throat - figuratively speaking of course. Mom was a good but inconsistent cook. Sometimes her creations were masterpieces and other times were rushed flops.

When the few women guests we had over during rare occasions asked mom for her recipes she was flabbergasted. Why? Mom never relied on recipes but rather memory, which was another issue. And not being a great communicator mom was unable to share her unique food creations. My take was that she didn’t want to share the knowledge of the one skill she had so well culled - cooking.

However, there were many legitimate and practical reasons for my folks food antics. Unspeakable extenuating circumstances laid the foundation for their food behavior. Their actions were well founded and based on years of horror and misery.

As teenagers living in Poland they were whisked off to Siberian labor camps in 1939 when Germany and Russia invaded their country. They toiled in the bitter cold weather of snow and ice with bare essentials and little or no food. When I would chat with my folks over the years bringing up this uncomfortable subject they shared horrific stories of sickness, mistreatment and starvation where many of their friends and relatives died around them from exposure, disease or malnutrition.

After being released from the cold and hard labor camps they wandered around southern Russia, wound up in Uzbekistan and finally in Germany where American Soldiers and German people helped them get settled in a displaced persons camp before emigrating to the US.

During a trip to Israel in 1991 I had an opportunity to meet my long lost aunt. My mother’s sister Sonja who lived in Tel Aviv. She shared many heartbreaking stories about her family in Siberia during their hard labor encampment there. One struck me deeply regarding the food issues with my mom. Sonja spoke about my mom being strong, fearless and dynamic. She would scour the Russian soldiers’ trash digging for potato peelings, bones, rotten vegetables, fruit peals and heaven knows what else to feed her family. Some of the other secrets Sonja shared I cannot.

Those years in the Siberian labor camps and wandering through unknown parts of the world were horrendous experiences I’ll never know. Between their lives in Poland and their early years in the US there were many onerous obstacles to hurdle. But having enough to eat was their main concern that never left them. Even today when I talk to my dad his first words are usually “what did you eat today”? I had cereal milk and bananas”.

Blueberry SCARS

Since I quite adore my cousin let's share a first SCARS story about her experience as a ten year old girl wandering through the greener parts of outer New York City.

As a city girl, she and her mom were in the "country" picking fresh wild blueberries on a beautiful spring morning during the halcyon days only a few years after WWII ended.

Walking through the woods, cousin Annie encountered a barrier. She negotiated a funny looking wired fence but realized too late that it was barbed wire. Having succeeded in the climb, she also wound up with a deep wound in her hand. Gushing a thick crimson liquid she and her mom rushed to the nearest farm house where they screamed and battered on the front door until the overall clad farmer opened the door.

He saw the blood flow but wouldn't allow them in his home. Instead he pointed them in the direction of the old fashioned outdoor water pump. They pumped enough water to clean the wound and eventually went on their way to properly dress the injury.

Annie told me that although she cut herself and was in pain, the entire experience was one she will always remember. But not as a painful experience rather as an interesting memory where she picked fresh blueberries with her mom who has long passed on.

Thank you cousin.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pull the Plug

Today its cool, cloudy and murky. The kind of weather I enjoy as a respite from the myriad of sunny days. To some this may sound as if I'm a bit off kilter shunning sunny weather in the heart of winter. Well I am and I do. The reasons I'm no longer a fan of the sun these days are too many and very boring to detail in today's journal.

Cool murky days also make me feel melancholy so I'll share something a little bit intimate and personal but not too deep. I've had a good run here in Los Angeles over the nearly three decades I've tooled around this cool town. But I've overstayed my welcome and its time to move on with my new life. 

A major decision I'm married to is to move to a new environment far away from this once  glitzy paradise which quietly crept up to become a concrete jungle resembling other cities many of us left.  

My search is for a quieter, smaller, gentler less congested town I can call my own, find my tribe, start anew and thrive. Ah, isn't that a dream many of us have. I wish this were a unique wish but I guess I'm more ordinary than I'd like to think I am.

Well, I now have the time and inclination to pull the plug and move on but not yet the courage. I'm trying to muster up enough gumption to act and its not as easy as it seems.

As a web surfer I've conducted all the research I need to to make my decision. I've narrowed the locations down to three interesting places - all for different reasons. At this point I just need encouragement. So if yo have any please let me know.

Bye for now.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Everyone has scars whether they be physical, emotional or psychological. 

As a biographer and interviewer, I've run across many individuals who's mention of a scar evoked strong memories, long stories and sometimes emotional releases. Even today such passionate responses surprise me.

As I would meet people with or without my camera, I would question their life's experiences and there would always be at least one outstanding memory they would want to share. Once comfortable in their story telling they might reveal a childhood or more recent scar related event which usually turns out to be more emotional than even they would have realized.

Many times they would show me their scars which I would photograph. Here's one from a man I met at Venice Beach about a year ago. He told me the story of having climbed a chain link fence as a teenager and became injured. The scar is well healed but the memory of his trauma was embedded deeply where he revealed every gory detail as he rolled up his sleeve to proudly show me his badge of courage.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

No pics today. Just words....

Hello, I was feeling a bit blue today so I took a ride to Santa Monica's Apple store for a quick class in web site creation. Yes, my next project is to create a web site in addition to this blog site. I need to to start bringing in some income so I'll promote my old free lance copy writing business. Pretty boring so far, eh?

Went to the Santa Monica main library and just read some bios on line which I much enjoy. Most people's lives aren't that interesting but bios on famous people would surprise you. Today I read about John Steinbeck who won a Nobel prize years after his best work "The Grapes of Wrath". Nothing really spectacular in his life. He grew up in northern California, attended Stanford U and wrote about his experiences with the locals "Tortilla Flats" and mistreated migrant farmers from Oklahoma who migrated to California after the dust bowl drought left them poor and penniless.

He was an outstanding and prolific writer. Hemingway, on the other hand, did a lot of "manly" stuff like big game hunting, deep sea fishing, Cuba living, Florida Keyes tooling around, waring and expatriate living. He was cool, adventuresome but evidently had some life issues which was apparent at the end.

At the Brentwood library now. Its quiet. Very quiet here. Maybe its the strange weather. I once mentioned in a previous post that the hot dry and spooky Santa Ana winds make me crazy. Maybe others too. Jeez Louise 84 degrees in December. No wonder I'm off kilter. Well there are other reasons too. Can't talk about that now.

Fat boy called me this morning. He wants to go on a road trip. Maybe next week to Salinas? Aha. Go figure that one out. The mystery continues.

Lynda called me too. Maybe I'll get together with her too. She's cool.

OK I'm a bit hungry now. Will head to Whole Foods across the street for my favorites: hummus, cukes, bread and cheese. Oh and fizzy water.....hmm maybe a little Merlot. (I don't care if Sideways doesn't like it.)

Ciao (not chow) for now

Monday, December 3, 2007

Busted at the Barber Shop

So  Mrs. J busted my chops this week. beacuse I didn't publish a photo of her in my last blog; then she didn't like her new published photo; and finally she told me I was a lousy photographer who didn't know how to photograph a beautiful woman like herself.  I give up and have deep empathy for Mr. J 

It was an overall strange week. I wanted to go visit my son David and his wife back east next week as a last minute surprise trip but they'll be in Jamaica so Tami can get her hair braided. 

Oh well. My timing has been a bit off this week. I bumped into Linda leaning over a couple of hot rod bikes as she said, "you must be mad at me?" No response from me. We made small talk later as she explained how busy she was. My thoughts: no excuses. Anyway, we moved on...for the moment.

Want to take a last minute trip out of LA. Getting stale and bored. Need some fresh air , new people, words and new cultures to visit to get my head straight as we would say during the folk song days of Joan Baez. Anyone want to join me?

OK, the Ambien seems to be kicking in nicely now and suddenly  I'm slowing down fast. Rather than blathering on I'll just bid you all adieu.

But you know I'd like to add a photo. Let's see what I can find that's inappropriate.
Ciao to all

p.s. I need some technical guidance. After I import a photo it places itself at the top of the post and I am unable to adjust its position within the blog. Any help will be deeply appreciated,

Ciao Ciao
Your Bronx boy journal friend